Monday, October 19, 2015

Drafting Commercial Ships into the Russian Navy

"Alican Deval" (aka "Dvinitsa-50") underway in Novorossiysk - October 10, 2015
(credit: Oleg Sushkov)
Moscow apparently has figured out that landing ships are not the most effective way to move large numbers of vehicles and other military hardware to Syria. According to a blog linked to the Center for the Analysis of Strategy and Technology, as many as eight commercial vessels were recently purchased for use by the Russian Navy. The ships will be manned by a mix of military and civilian sailors. As many have noted, military ships, which include the newly acquired commercial vessels flying the Russian Navy flag, are not subject to at-sea inspections.

Last AIS position broadcast for "Alican Deval" -- October 11, 2015

The first newly acquired cargo vessel, "Alican Deval", arrived in Novorossiysk on October 7 and was last noted transmitting AIS from the same location at 13:58 UTC on October 11. The last position placed it at the Novorossiysk Trans-Shipping Transportation/Expeditionary Company (NUTEP, for short) [Новороссийское Узловое Транспортно-Экспедиционное Предприятие - НУТЭП]. On October 14, the vessel, now renamed "Dvinitsa-50", was photographed heading south through the Turkish Straits by Alper Boler (@alperboler) and Yörük Işık (@YorukIsik). To date, there have been no known AIS transmissions from a vessel named "Dvinitsa-50".

"Dvinitsa-50" (formerly "Alican Deval") heading south through the Turkish Straits -- October 14, 2015
(credit: Yörük Işık)
"Dvinitsa-50" (formerly "Alican Deval") heading south through the Turkish Straits -- October 14, 2015
(credit: Alper Boler)
A second vessel, which arrived in Novorossiysk by October 10, has been renamed "Kyzyl-60". On October 18, it transferred from NUTEP to the neighboring Novorossiysk Naval Base and could depart port at any time to begin its first cargo transfer mission to Syria. And a third vessel bearing the new name "Kazan-60" also appeared in Novorossiysk by October 18. As with "Dvinitsa-50", neither of these two new additions to the Russian Navy are broadcasting via AIS.

Formation of crews to man these new naval auxiliary ships only recently began. However, not all prospective crew members are satisfied with conditions on board the former commercial vessels. On October 9, a boiler plant technician on the Russian Black Sea Fleet's cable ship "Setun" was ordered to report to Novorossiysk to serve as Third Engineer on "Dvinitsa-50". After a brief inspection he determined that only two of the ship's three diesel generators worked, but both of them also had problems. Having discovered other material issues, the sailor complained up the chain of command, where his complaints were met with profanity and accusations of him being a coward and a traitor. On October 10, he signed a resignation letter that effectively ended his civilian naval career. He has since appealed to the Black Sea Fleet Prosecutor's Office to look into the incident.